During the worst years of apartheid, the most popular show on television in South Africa - among both blacks and whites - was "The Cosby Show". Why did people living under a system built on the idea that blacks were inferior and threatening flock to ...
a show that portrayed African Americans as comfortably mainstream? Starring Mandela and Cosby takes up this paradox, revealing the surprising impact of television on racial politics. The South African government maintained a ban on television until 1976, and, according to Ron Krabill, they were right to be wary of its potential power. The medium, he contends, created a shared space for communication in a deeply divided nation that seemed destined for civil war along racial lines. At a time when it was illegal to publish images of Nelson Mandela, Bill Cosby became the most recognizable black man in the country - and, Krabill argues, his presence in the living rooms of white South Africans helped lay the groundwork for Mandela's release and ascension to power. Weaving together South Africa's political history and a social history of television, Krabill challenges conventional understandings of globalization, offering up new insights into the relationship between politics and the media.